This weekend (Sat., Nov. 19, 2022), Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) will return to UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada, for UFC Vegas 65. A stacked pay-per-view (PPV) immediately followed by a run-of-the-mill “Fight Night” event — the 2022 formula in a nutshell. Fortunately, the main event Heavyweight banger between Derrick Lewis vs. Sergei Spivac promises drama one way or another, and the rest of the card is built up entirely on action fighters and prospects.
This weekend’s main card seems terribly unlikely to disappoint or take all that long. Let’s take a closer look at the match ups that lead up the to main event:
Light Heavyweight: Ion Cutelaba vs. Kennedy Nzechukwu
Best Win for Cutelaba? Khalil Rountree Jr. For Nzechukwu? Karl Roberson
Current Streak: Cutelaba lost his last two, whereas Nzechukwu rebounded last time out
X-Factor: Cutelaba is chaos
How these two match up: This is a certified BANGFEST!
Cutelaba has no idea how to pace himself or fight strategically. A talented wrestler with power in his hands, Cutelaba is balls-to-the-walls at all times, destined to come back with his shield or on it each and every time. There have been moments throughout his career where he’ll show a bit of craft or more measured aggression, but it fails to last long.
It’s beyond time to accept that the “Hulk” we see is the “Hulk” we get.
Nigeria’s Nzechukwu is quite the physical talent. His technical skills leave something to be desired all around, but hitting hard and being durable is more than enough to find good success in a weak division.
Flaw fighters make for interesting match ups. On one hand, Cutelaba is the far, far more experienced wrestler. He should be able to take down Nzechukwu without much difficulty, and he’s immediately overwhelmed opponents of Nzechukwu’s experience level without issue in the past. Given a bit of control time, Cutelaba can absolutely mangle opponents from top position.
Fortunately for Nzechukwu, this is Cutelaba we’re talking about. There’s also every chance he brawls wild or gasses out quickly from having to wrestle for too long. In such a situation, Nzechukwu is the far more consistent fighter down the stretch, likely to turn up the heat on a tired foe.
I have backed Cutelaba too many times in this column and been burned for it. The 28-year-old has so much experience and potential, but that matters little if he never actually makes any changes inside the Octagon.
Expect his defense to fail him once again.
Prediction: Nzechukwu via knockout
Heavyweight: Chase Sherman vs. Waldo Cortes-Acosta
Best Win for Sherman? Damian Grabowski For Cortes-Acosta? Jared Vanderaa
Current Streak: Sherman won his last bout, whereas Cortes-Acosta is looking his second UFC win at 7-0
X-Factor: This is a short-notice booking after Sherman’s scheduled bout vs. Josh Parisian dissolved
How these two match up: Bare Knuckle boxer vs. professional boxer collide in mixed martial arts (MMA) gloves!
Sherman is about as tough as they come. He doesn’t necessarily have the technical kickboxing chops to climb the ladder, but he can always be counted upon to brawl with the middle of the division. Conversely, Cortes-Acosta is a new face among the big men inside the Octagon. The Contenders Series product boasts an undefeated record filled with knockouts, but he’s yet to really be tested.
Similar to the fight above, this one comes down to conditioning versus defense. Sherman is well-accustomed to fighting hard for three rounds, and he manages a more high-volume pace than most Heavyweight hitters. However, he’s also criminally easy to punch in the face, and Cortes-Acosta has the fluidity to make him pay for his attempts to push the pace.
Could the short-notice make the difference? It very well might, but that requires Sherman to make it to the second round without getting stopped or badly wounded in the process.
I’ll err on the side of early violence.
Prediction: Cortes-Acosta via knockout
Welterweight: Andre Fialho vs. Muslim Salikhov
Best Win for Fialho? Miguel Baeza For Salikhov? Francisco Trinaldo
Current Streak: Both men lost their last bout
X-Factor: Can Fialho rebound from getting styled on by Jake Matthews?
How these two match up: Strikers collide!
Fialho started his UFC career strong, giving Michel Pereira all he could handle on short-notice before picking up consecutive knockout wins. Then, Matthews unexpectedly picked him apart, perhaps punishing the Brazilian’s attempts to fight so frequently. He’s taken a few months off since, but this match up will still be his fifth in 2022.
Salikhov is a very fun kickboxer who’s generally difficult to take down. At 38 years of age, “The King of Kung Fu” probably doesn’t have a title run left him in, but the spinning strike expert is very clearly still one of Welterweight’s better strikers.
I don’t think either man really has to worry about the takedown in this one. Really, it’s all about whether Salikhov can manage distance and work his long range strikes, or if Fialho is able to find the pocket and extend exchanges. Fialho hasn’t quite proven himself an expert in cutting the cage, but he did manage to track down Pereira well enough, which is a good sign.
Still, I cannot help but feel like getting sparked by Jake Matthews is a bad sign opposite a veteran kickboxer. Salikhov is crafty and powerful, and between the two men, he still seems more durable even as he approaches his forties.
Prediction: Salikhokv via knockout
Welterweight: Jack Della Maddalena vs. Danny Roberts
Best Win for Maddalena? Ramazan Emeev For Roberts? Ramazan Emeev!
Current Streak: Maddalena is 2-0 inside the Octagon, whereas Roberts lost his last bout
X-Factor: Roberts has much more UFC experience
How these two match up: A very talented prospect takes on an established action fighter.
Maddalena has huge potential. The Contenders Series product has quickly proven himself a cut above the rest thanks to his diligent boxing and sharp body work. Thus far, his takedown defense and grappling have looked quite up to par as well. England’s Roberts has been on the UFC roster since 2015. He hasn’t necessarily been the most active or consistent in that time, but “Hot Chocolate” has proven himself a very real threat both with his knockout power and ability to throw up sudden submissions from bottom position.
This match up really favors Maddalena. He’s the slicker and more consistent striker, and Roberts doesn’t appear to be strong enough wrestler to drag him down. Unless Roberts does something really dramatic, the minute-to-minute exchanges really seem to favor Maddalena, who also hits more than hard enough to shake up “Hot Chocolate.”
Barring a huge connection from Roberts, Maddalena moves to 3-0 in UFC.
Prediction: Maddalena via knockout
‘X-Factor’ Picks for 2022: 45-28
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 65 fight card right here, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance (also on ESPN+) at 4 p.m. ET.
To check out the latest and greatest UFC Vegas 65: “Lewis vs. Spivac” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.